A number of Warren residents raised concerns over a proposed 140-foot cellphone tower Verizon is applying to construct on Airport Road at the Warren Planning Commission’s November 14 meeting. The planning commission discussed inviting Verizon to an upcoming meeting, which happen the second and fourth Mondays of the month, to make their case.
MSK Attorneys sent a letter to the Warren Planning Commission dated October 31, 2022, stating that its client, Verizon, “intends to file an application with the Public Utility Commission under the provisions of 30 V.S.A. 248a ("Section 248a"), for a Certificate of Public Good to allow the construction of a wireless telecommunications facility in the Town of Warren, Vermont.” The proposed cell tower would be located on Airport Road by the airport.
Pursuant to the provisions of 30 V.S.A. § 248a ("Section 248a"), an applicant must provide written notice 60 days prior to filing the application.
The letter states, “Verizon intends to construct a telecommunications facility on a ("Parcel") located on Airport Road in Warren, Vermont. The Parcel is an approximately 505-acre lot, and its owners have a mailing address of 908 Airport Road, in Warren, Vermont 05674. The property owners [David and Marlene Defreest] have given Verizon permission to proceed with this Application. The coordinates for the Project are latitude 44°08'05.99" North and longitude 72°49'52.91" West. Verizon will create an 50' x 50' "Compound" enclosed by an 8' high chain link fence, with a locked gate, and topped with barbed wire. A 1409 above ground level ("AGL") telecommunications monopole tower ("Monopole") will be constructed within the Compound.”
NEIGHBORS WEIGH IN
At this week's meeting, neighbors weighed in on the proposal.
John Egan, whose property abuts the proposed tower, said that the tower would be 70 feet above the tree line and higher than other cell towers in the region. He also noted it would be on a steep slope next to a designated wildlife corridor.
“We have a lovely view of The Valley. I’m concerned about the aesthetics and real estate value,” Dodge Bingham said. “It would be a shame to have that eyesore sticking out in The Valley.”
Ryan Bowen, who lives in close proximity to the proposed tower, said he was concerned about the aesthetics, the wildlife, erosion and the health and safety of living close to the tower. He said he had heard anecdotal reports of living in proximity to cellphone towers being linked to increased cases of leukemia, headaches, nausea and vomiting and was concerned about his children living so close to it.
Connie Colman added, “As a nurse, the health concerns are very concerning to me.” According to the American Cancer Society, “At this time, there’s no strong evidence that exposure to RF waves from cellphone towers causes any noticeable health effects,” though, “most expert organizations agree that more research is needed to help clarify this, especially for any possible long-term effects.”
“We do have to find a way to coexist with the technology,” the planning commission’s Camilla Behn said. “We do want to have coverage. How do we do that in a way that works for our neighbors? It’s a negotiation. We’re all in this together.”
The specifics of the Verizon letter detail how the company feels the project addresses the local and regional Town Plans.
The letter further states, “According to 30 V.S.A. § 248a(c)(2), during the Commission's review, "substantial deference [will be] given to the land conservation measures" in the local and regional plans of the "affected municipality." We are, therefore, addressing the relevant provisions of the Warren, Vermont 2019 Town Plan (adopted on April 23, 2019) ("Town Plan") and the Central Vermont Regional Planning' Commission's 2016 Regional Plan (amended effective July 17, 2018, October 13, 2020 and November 17, 2020) ("Regional Plan") to illustrate that the proposed Project will comply.
“The Town Plan contains a Section on "Communications." That Section contains the following observations: Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom provides land-line phone service, as well as high-speed internet, in Warren. Various national companies provide cellular telephone service in Warren. Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, SPRTNT and Nextel maintain wireless facilities in the Sugarbush Village area. Warren's Land Use and Development Regulations include standards for construction of wireless telecommunication facilities. As of 2017, however, applicants for wireless telecommunications facilities could choose to have their projects approved under the state Section 248 process rather than under municipal zoning. Internet services are available through a variety of local and national providers, including Green Mountain Access (the Internet subsidiary of Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom). Green Mountain Access offers high-speed Internet services throughout Warren with fiber-optic service available in some areas of town.”
According to MSK’s letter, “The Project will enhance the quality of the Verizon's infrastructure serving Warren in a manner that will maintain and improve the reliability of the Verizon network and Internet connectivity and speed on that network. Verizon shares the goals of the Town Regional Plans of using existing infrastructure rather than building new towers where feasible. However, in this case, there is no existing infrastructure [that] will allow Verizon to accomplish its objectives of enhancing coverage and capacity in this area. The location that Verizon has chosen is well developed and is not in an ecologically sensitive area.”
The letter from MSK requested it receive comments on the proposed project 30 days following receipt of the notice so they can be considered prior to filing the application. It stated recipients of the notice, including the planning commission, as well as the Agency of Natural Resources, the landowners of record of property adjoining the project sites and the Agency of Transportation, among others, would be notified of the application being filed and then have 30 days to file comments, a motion to intervene or request for hearing with the Public Utility Commission. The planning commission will work with the Warren Select Board to make a final decision.